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The Latest: Wisconsin Senate begins budget debate

The Senate is in session for the state budget in Madison, September 15, 2017. (WLUK/Courtney Ryan)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Latest on Wisconsin budget debate (all times local):

12:40 p.m.

The Wisconsin Senate has begun debating the state budget 11 weeks after the $76 billion spending plan was due.

Republicans entered the day one vote short of the 17 they needed to pass the plan. But Republican Sen. Luther Olsen says there are 19 GOP votes for the plan. Democrats are united against it.

If the Senate passes the budget without any changes, it will go to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature. The Assembly passed the budget on Wednesday.

It was due on July 1 but squabbling among Republicans caused the delay. Spending continued at current levels during the impasse.

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12:20 p.m.

State Sen. Luther Olsen says Republicans have the votes needed to pass the state budget.

Olsen said Friday that at least 19 senators will vote for the $76 billion spending plan. They need 17 to pass it.

Four senators have said they're against the budget. Three of them met Friday morning with Gov. Scott Walker's chief of staff to try and reach a deal.

If the Senate passes the budget, it will head to Walker for his signature.

The budget is 11 weeks late. Current spending has continued during the impasse.

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10:20 a.m.

Three Senate Republicans who have been unwilling to vote for the GOP-written Wisconsin budget are meeting with Gov. Scott Walker's staff to try and reach a deal.

Senate Republicans met privately briefly Friday morning before breaking so the three who have pledged to vote against the plan could meet with Walker's staff. Walker has the power to veto items in the budget that could win over one or more of the senators who currently are holding up passage.

Republicans need 17 votes to pass the budget but they have only 16. They were scheduled to vote on it Friday, but delayed the start of debate for at least two hours as talks continued in private.

Walker spokesman Tom Evenson confirmed the meeting was taking place. Walker is in South Korea on a trade mission.

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9:40 a.m.

Gov. Scott Walker has been talking from South Korea with Republican state senators unwilling to vote for the state budget.

Walker is on a trade mission in South Korea while the state Senate planned to vote on passing the 10-week late budget on Friday. Republicans are one vote shy of the 17 they need to pass it.

Walker spokesman Tom Evenson says the governor "made calls to senators from South Korea to listen to their concerns and reach a solution." Evenson says the governor's staff has also been actively engaged in the process.

Walker told reporters Wednesday he was open to making changes to the budget to appease the holdouts. But Assembly Speaker Robin Vos likened the desired changes to a ransom note and says the Assembly won't vote again on a different version of the budget.

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9:20 a.m.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling says Democrats are united against the Republican-written state budget that doesn't have enough GOP votes to pass.

Shilling said Friday that no one from Republican leadership has approached Democrats about helping to pass the budget, which is already 10 weeks late.

Republicans need 17 of their 20 members to vote for the budget, but they are one vote short. They have their largest majority since 1971.

Shilling says the inability of Republicans to get enough votes at this point for the budget "demonstrates the dysfunction that's happening, the inability to govern."

She says taxpayers and communities across the state are being held hostage. Current spending has continued during the budget impasse.

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8:20 a.m.

Senate Republicans plan to meet privately Friday as they remain one vote short of the 17 needed to pass the state budget.

The Senate was convening Friday to vote on sending the $76 billion budget to Gov. Scott Walker. But four conservative senators from the Milwaukee suburbs have said they won't vote for it, leaving Republicans one shy of what's needed. Democrats are united against it.

One of the holdouts is Sen. Steve Nass. His spokesman Mike Mikalsen said Friday that all four remained opposed. He says senators will head to caucus immediately after the session starts around 9:30 a.m.

The Assembly passed the budget Wednesday and Republican leaders there have decried GOP opposition in the Senate, likening it to being held hostage.

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12:16 a.m.

The Wisconsin budget is headed for a climactic vote in the state Senate.

But it remains unclear whether Republicans who are in the majority can cobble together enough support to pass the two months-late spending plan as hoped Friday.

Republicans need 17 votes out of their 20 senators to approve the $76 billion budget that was due on July 1 but that has been hung up among GOP in-fighting. Current spending continues during the impasse as Republicans and Gov. Scott Walker work behind the scenes to forge a compromise.

The Assembly passed the budget late Wednesday night.

It must pass the Senate in identical form before it goes to Walker for his signature.

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